The John Report: WrestleMania 21 Preview

Welcome to my WrestleMania 21 preview. We're just two days away from the big event. Before I get started on the preview, I want to let you know that I will be doing live WrestleMania coverage right here at and the Oratory. This is the first time I'm doing a live recap since last year's Summerslam. I stopped largely because I find the webcast prices to be a bit outrageous, but I figured for WM21 I'll spend a bit. Sometimes during live PPVs the traffic is so overwhelming that the site goes down once in a while. All I can say is keep trying to reload it because I'm going to be updating it during the entire four hour show. I'm not sure if I'm going to be doing every PPV live, but we'll see how this one goes and move on from there.

This year's WrestleMania, on paper, looks like a pretty good show to me. I think they've done a good job in filling the lineup up with matches and moments that fans of different interests can enjoy. You've got the potential for a fast opener in Guerrero-Mysterio, a match for some crazy bumps in the ladder match, a dream matchup in Angle-Michaels, a markout moment when Steve Austin is a guest in Piper's Pit and two major title matches that have been built up pretty damn well. Last year's event gave us two major title matches that were not only markout moments, but very good matches as well. This year's matches in the title scene won't be as good, but they're still built up very well. I'm very much looking forward to the show. With that said, let's get it started.

Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio

This is a match that I know I’m going to love because I’ve seen them wrestle many times before and every time they wrestle they always deliver the goods. I still remember watching their match from WCW’s Halloween Havoc ’97 live and marveling at how good it was. The match went on to be arguably the best one on one match in WCW history and has lived on through WWE because it appears on the DVDs they released for both Guerrero and Mysterio. That was eight years ago, but the talent that these two guys have hasn’t changed one bit. They are close friends who know what the other guy is going to do in the ring whether they’re on the same team or on opposite sides of the ring. This match came about because over the past couple of months they’ve had Mysterio go over Guerrero in a series of tag team matches. That was followed up by Guerrero teaming up with Mysterio, the two of them winning the tag belts and reaching this point.

The key role in this match is played by Chavo Guerrero, who is out of Mania with an eye injury, but is making his presence known by pushing his uncle Eddie to challenge Rey. Both guys are coming in as babyfaces, but will they both leave as faces? My gut tells me that this will be a 15 minute match that starts off the show at a tremendously fast pace. Lots of nearfalls, lots of action and the crowd will be jumping for it all. I see Chavo coming down to ringside and helping Eddie win the match even though Eddie won’t want him to. He’ll see the opportunity, like a dazed Mysterio after a belt shot, and jump on it because he’s so desperate to beat Mysterio. This would then lead to a series of rematches through the next couple of months that would see Mysterio ultimately win the feud while Guerrero flirts with turning heel the whole time. My opinion is this is the start of one of the year’s best feuds. I’m looking forward to it.
Winner: Eddie Guerrero

Big Show vs. Akebono

I think the pace of this match will be faster than Guerrero-Mysterio due to all of the top rope maneuvers we will see in this match. Yes, that was sarcasm, people. What can I say about a Sumo Match? I’m not a sumo fan. I don’t think the fans in LA will be sumo fans. The good thing is this will be short. We’ll get the entrances, they’ll step into the circular ring for the introductions, they’ll do some shoving and it’ll be over fairly quickly. I think it’ll be cool to see the size of these guys in the ring face to face, but after that ends what else is there? Not much, in my eyes. As for a prediction, I’ll take the guy making a one shot deal because WWE likes to kiss the ass of Japan these days.
Winner: Akebono

Christy Hemme vs. Trish Stratus

As you probably know, Trish is easily one of my favorite people on the entire WWE roster for a plethora (I love that word) of reasons. Christy is not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I thought she was the best of all the girls in the Diva Search and I guess she deserved to win because she did some impressive bouncing. The fact that she’s also on the PLAYBOY PUSH FROM HELL~! means her spot at WM21 was obvious. It’s just that I’d rather see her jumping around in one spot instead of being in the ring with my girl Trish. Hemme just doesn’t look like a wrestler. She’s too thin whereas at least the regular wrestlers like Trish, Lita, Molly and Victoria have muscle tone. I expect this to get 7-10 minutes with Trish being on the offensive most of the match while Hemme tries to sell things properly. I’m torn on picking the winner. I could see Hemme scoring the big upset with a rollup or some fluke pin out of nowhere while Stratus wins the belt back on Raw or at Backlash in a few weeks. I could also see Trish win through cheating or maybe even a Lita heel turn, but I don’t think Lita’s turning here. I’m going to say Trish wins a tainted match and they continue this rivalry until Christy’s proven more in the ring leading to Christy winning the belt a little later on down the road.
Winner: Trish Stratus

Money in the Bank Ladder Match

I give WWE a lot of credit for thinking up this match. The “winner gets a title shot that's good for one year” stipulation is the kind of creative thing they need to do more of. It’s certainly better than the winner getting a shot at Backlash or even Summerslam. This way, fans will be inclined to see when the title shot happens. I really like five of the six competitors in the match, and then there’s Kane. He’s okay. The act is fine, the face run still makes no sense, but at least he’s a veteran who knows how to pop the crowd with his signature moves. I don’t see Kane winning this because of how he dominated on Raw. That rarely translates to PPV wins. Cancel Jericho out too due to him getting a tapout win on Raw. I love Christian’s act as anybody. I just don’t think WWE sees him as a main eventer, which is fine. He’s great in his role and there’s nothing wrong with being a top midcard act for many years. The other three are the possible winners to me. I think Benjamin’s a guy that could very easily be in one of the top three or four matches at WrestleMania next year. Benoit’s still over pretty huge after being shunted to midcard hell since Summerslam, so he could always get back in the main event scene. My pick to win is Edge due in large part to WWE most likely making him a main eventer this year. I think that with all of his gripes about title shots that he’d be perfect to win it. He could dangle this win over everybody’s head, teasing a use of the shot every damn week.

As far as the match quality goes, this should be pretty damn good. With six guys, they’ll be able to bust out some sick spots and knowing that Benoit’s in it you know he’ll work over some body parts. Most of them have good chemistry with one another, so it should lead to some good sequences. I think it’ll go about fifteen minutes and be in the four star range as one of the top three matches on the show in terms of quality.
Winner: Edge

Piper's Pit with Stone Cold

This isn’t a match obviously, but it should be quite the moment. As a huge Austin fan, it’ll be a lot of fun to see him again. I don’t care if the crowd chants “WHAT?” the whole time, I’m still going to love it. I’m guessing the conversation will center around Austin’s deal with WWE films until he gets interrupted most likely by Muhammad Hassan and Daivari. I would love it if Carlito Cool came out too, but that’s probably not happening. I think you’ll see Hassan come out, run down both Austin and Piper, then probably take a beating from the two legends. What I’m interested in is if this leads to a match between Austin and Hassan at Backlash. That’s the kind of thing that could really pop a buyrate for Backlash. Expect some Stunners here too. Should be fun.

Randy Orton vs. Undertaker

This is a tough one to pick that would have been even tougher had news not come out about Randy Orton needing shoulder surgery after WrestleMania. Before I heard that news, I was really torn on who to pick. Then I thought about it more and I realize I’m still torn on it. Sure, Randy’s dinged up and he’ll be missing some time after WM. Does that mean he has to lose here? No, it doesn’t at all. There are ways around it. He could get some cheap win here, then have Undertaker come after him on Raw, injure his shoulder, put him out of action for months and maybe move Orton over to Smackdown via the lottery in order for this feud to continue. That’s just an example of what could be done in this situation. I think WWE has done a good job in building this rivalry as the cocky kid Orton challenges is the legendary Undertaker. They’ve built up Undertaker’s 12-0 streak at WrestleManias well. They’ve made Orton into a heel again, which is a good thing. I hope that for the match they go for a brawling style of match rather than a straight up in-ring one because both of these guys are known for slowing things down too much in the middle of the match. You’ve got Orton with his chinlocks and Undertaker with his wanna be MMA holds that the crowds don’t know how to react to. They need to do some brawling to make it flow better.

This is a big match for both guys. For Orton, it’s huge because it’s his first match as a heel since the summer and he’s going up against a guy considered to be a leader in the locker room. You do a good job with Undertaker, you’ll get lots of love from the boys in the back for it. For Undertaker, this is his chance to prove the naysayers (like me) wrong. This is his chance to show that there is something left in his tank as far as having good matches in big time situations. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of current Undertaker. I liked this gimmick like 13 years ago when it was cool, but it’s too unrealistic this day and age. He was good on the bike, especially during his heel run in 2002. For the past year I can’t remember a match of his that I really liked. Is it his age? Is it the gimmick? Is it a lack of quality opponents? Who knows? That’s why I think this is big. I don’t want to remember him as a guy who hung around too long past his prime, so this is an opportunity for him to show there’s something left. As far as the winner goes, I think Orton will do everything he can to cheat to win. I just don’t think it’ll work. Undertaker wins.
Winner: The Undertaker

Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels

WOOO! HELL YEAH! The best thing about WrestleMania every year is that it usually gives you at least one match that you have been anticipating for years upon years. One match that has you so excited that you’re literally looking at the calendar hoping for the show, and this one match, to come. For me, this is that match. Not only is this the match I’m most anticipating at WrestleMania this year, but probably the whole WWE this year. I can’t think of a possible match I’d anticipate more than this one. With that said, the reasons for my love are pretty obvious to you, I think. Not only did I write a column a month ago about how much this match means to me as a fan, but the build to the match has been good enough that it’s made me anticipate it even more. I loved all the little things they did throughout the last month where Angle attacked Michaels beating him to a bloody pulp, Michaels surprising him on Smackdown, each man playing a video highlighting his career and seeing the intensity in their faces during all of this. It has worked out. Could it have been better if they were on the same show? Sure, but I think part of the reason it has worked out so well is because they’ve been apart and because of that there’s a greater sense of excitement for when they do meet up this Sunday.

In terms of what to expect in the match, it’s hard to say. When I think about the match quality all I can think about is it being one of those match of the year candidates that we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives. Maybe that’s unrealistic, though, because they haven’t had a match against eachother although if you look at both of their careers the resumes speak for themselves. Not only are they two of the best athletes ever in WWE and two of the most decorated champions ever in WWE, they’re also two of the very best in-ring workers ever. I like the whole “best athlete of this generation” idea they have going here. It works. Another factor here is their health. A couple months ago Angle says it might be his retirement and then a few weeks later he comes back saying he’s got another 2-3 years left in him. What to believe? I don’t know. I just hope that when he does call it quits that he’s able to go home to be with his family and know that his legacy in the ring won’t be tarnished one bit for having “only” six years under his belt. When it comes to the match prediction, I’m going with Michaels. I really could see it going either way, but since Michaels is the babyface here I think he’s the safer pick. I don’t know if he’ll win with the superkick, but I see it ending on some kind of cradle or rollup because if it ends that way it leaves you with the sense of it being a close match and I think that’s the way they have to go about it.
Winner: Shawn Michaels

John Cena vs. JBL

If you asked me what match on the card has had the best build I’d be inclined to say that it’s this match. Think about it. Prior to Cena’s winning the number one contendership at No Way Out they kept these two guys apart for the most part. I think that was a wise move because that is what making this match work. There is a sense of anticipation in the air because they haven’t had all of that interaction that some of the other matches have had. If you listen to the crowds, they’re very much into Cena as the number one contender. JBL, to his credit, is getting a ton of heel heat on his own too. They are the polar opposites of eachother in terms of their character and the crowd is buying into that. Their promos have been excellent in countering eachother. Cena has ditched his sometimes stale rapes in order to become a more direct, in your face type of babyface, which is exactly what he should be. It works for him. He’s skilled enough as an actor, maybe the best one on the WWE roster right now, to pull it off.

The concern with this match is the actual in-ring action. I don’t think I’m stretching it when I say that neither of these men can be considered top of the line in terms of what they do in the ring. That doesn’t mean they’re bad. They’re just going to have to work a lot harder to pull off this match because fans don’t think of either guy as a worker when they think of them, they think about their mouths and their character. I think they need to add some kind of no-DQ stipulation to the match in order to spice it up. Both are better brawlers than they are technical wrestlers, so it would be wise to allow them to go out on the floor, have JBL get bloody and allow Cena to employ some of that “street” character into the match. I think the victor of the match will be Cena. I think it would be stupid to have JBL retain again, then save the title switch for Judgment Day or something like that. They can still do the rematch, but just have it so JBL is the challenger there. Cena is ready for the belt and the crowd is ready for him to have the belt. Let Cena be the one to end JBL’s reign of terror. It’s the perfect time.
Winner: John Cena

Batista vs. Triple H

Without a doubt, this feud has had the longest buildup. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s had the best build, but it’s definitely had the longest of all the matches on the card. It started before Survivor Series when had visions of HHH’s title and continued through to New Year’s Revolution when HHH wouldn’t save Batista from a pin. Then it was cemented after Batista won the Royal Rumble and did everything he could to avoid facing Batista at WrestleMania. Since Batista officially turned after No Way Out the feud has been pretty good. Triple H has cut the same promo every week for a couple of months now, so if you missed Raw once then you didn’t really miss much. Batista’s had less to say, which is a better idea. Fans are really into him as the physical “animal” that has tremendous strength and the ability to drop in the one-liners when the time is right. He doesn’t need to talk that much. Last week they dropped what I feel was a big hint to the future when Batista ripped HHH, but praised Ric Flair. To be perfectly honest, that’s what made me change my mind from picking HHH to now picking Batista. That one little thing.

The way I see it, HHH will be unable to “put the animal down” as he has said. I think what we’ll see is something where he’ll want Flair to help him, but Flair will be unwilling to do. The reasons he’d be unwilling are because not only is he scared of Batista, but he also likes that Batista respects him. Don’t be shocked to see some dissention between HHH and Flair during the match. Maybe Flair walks out after HHH asks for his help. It’s a seed to plant for the future. I know there are those who think they could save the Batista win for Backlash to pop a buyrate for that PPV. I don’t agree with that. The time is right to put the belt on Batista. If you wait a month it could backfire. The guy is over. In a month’s time, maybe he loses that heat. The only way I see Batista losing is if some surprise person comes out, beats the hell out of him with a weapon and joins Evolution. I just don’t see it happening. I don’t think there’ll be a new Evolution member. I think the match will end with Batista winning clean. HHH can afford losses because you know in three or four months time he’ll probably be the champion again. Batista wins, goes on to feud with somebody like Edge while HHH feuds with Flair. As for the match quality, I think it should be okay. I think Batista’s three Raw matches (Flair, Snitsky, Kane) in preparation for this one were poor. Obviously HHH is better at this point than those three (he’s not better than Flair at his prime, but he’s better than Flair in his mid-50s). Much like the Cena-JBL match, they’d be smart to let them brawl a bit. I don’t see this match approaching the four star level, but given 20 minutes they should be able to have a three star match, which is certainly fine given the match circumstances.
Winner: Batista

In Closing…

Like I said in the open, I think this will be a good PPV. Probably the best PPV of this year, but they could always surprise us later in the year. I just think with three potential matches being at or above the four star level means a really strong lineup. I like that there's only eight matches because it will allow them to give each match plenty of time considering it's a four hour show. They're also likely going to introduce the Hall of Famers to the crowd, which should be fun. I hope they don't play all the WM trailers here. We've seen them all many times. Video packages will be aplenty, but I could go without the trailers. Stick them on the DVD release as extras. That's fine. I'm excited for this.

I'll see you again on Sunday with the live WrestleMania 21 coverage. If you're watching the show and you're not near a computer then you can hop on after the show for my full recap including a show rating out of ten, match times, star ratings, analysis and the three stars of the night. Here's a prediction: Akebono, Big Show and Christy won't be the three stars. Just a hunch! See ya Sunday!

Smell ya later,
John C. -